A new blog, OregonLiberal.com, calls for civility

There's a new political commentary blog whose title is fairly self-explanatory: Oregon Liberal. There, Ashland native Andrew Ainsworth hits the ground running with two posts discussing the breakdown of civility in Oregon politics. The first story surrounds the need of the Ashland City Council to attend group therapy sessions:

The Ashland City Council has long laid claim to being the most dysfunctional elected body in the state, and I think this past week’s developments seal the deal. As reported by the Ashland Daily Tidings and the Medford Mail Tribune, the Ashland Council will begin the first of five months of group therapy sessions next week.

Civil discourse first flew out the window with the election of Eric Navickas in November 2006, evenly splitting the six-member council into two competing factions. With a weak, ineffective mayor leading the meetings, things have progressively worsened. This past Monday may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back when Councilor David Chapman told Navickas to “shut your fucking mouth” during a council meeting. To be fair, Navickas is a bit of a jackass himself, having

–disrupted council meetings before he was elected
–disrupted council meeting while elected
–paraded naked through town
–condoned transients camping and building fires in Ashland’s watershed (while a councilor)
–called former Mayor Cathy Shaw a Nazi.

Nevertheless, Chapman has increasingly acted in a childish manner during meetings, even walking out on two of them. (I should disclose here that Chapman was appointed to the council in the summer of 2005 over me, but that does not drive my analysis.) Honestly, I have no problem with the use of profanities (I’ve personally been said to have the mouth of a sailor), but there is a time and a place for everything. Meetings of elected bodies should adhere to a certain level of decorum when doing the people’s business, and there are no excuses for the council’s recent behavior.

Who's paying for the therapy sessions? Ashland taxpayers.

The next post details the breakdown of political civility on the internet, specifically between Merkley and Novick supporters on blogs such as BlueOregon.

The biggest complaint I personally have with the advent of Web 2.0 is the continually lessening quality of information and discussion. The consequences of this are most grave for one sphere of American life dear to my heart: democracy. We live in a hyper-partisan time, and while I do not know if the worsening discourse on the Internet is its cause or effect, I think we can all agree that it does not improve the situation. By bringing flaming into the mainstream—vicious verbal attacks on one-another previously reserved for nerdy teenagers on gaming forums—we are not only undermining civil political discussion but undermining democracy as a result.

Here in our little part of the blogosphere the Jeff Merkley - Steve Novick U.S. Senate race is a prime example of the problems Web 2.0 can cause democracy. Let me first state this: I am a committed Merkley supporter. I believe that he has proven his leadership in the Oregon House and would be a phenomenal U.S. Senator. However, I fault both Merkley and Novick supporters equally for the basic breakdown in civil discourse on Blue Oregon, Loaded Orygun, etc. The issue here is not whom you support but how you support.

By attacking every little development of the opposing candidate’s campaign, you are not creating meaningful discussion of the issues. By dismissing the opposing candidate’s record by instead solely focusing on the endorsements he receives, you are not creating meaningful discussion of the issues. By pushing theories of conspiracy, you are not creating meaningful discussion of the issues. By attacking every comment of the opposing candidate’s supporters, you are not creating meaningful discussion of the issues. In all of these instances you are merely provoking the other side to flame you back.

Read the rest of both posts and comment at Oregon Liberal.


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